Sunday, October 30, 2005

Die Frauenkirche

The first time I saw the Frauenkirche in 1992 it was still a pile of rubble. Because I lived close to the German border and there was still a lot of stuff you could not get in Czechoslovakia, I used to go to Dresden fairly often, an average of once every two months for the two years I lived in Ústí nad Labem.

Dresden, as you know, was destroyed by allied firebombing in February 1945. Known as “Florence on the Elbe”, it had been an incredibly beautiful city, and very important architecturally. By the time I went for the first time, everything had been rebuilt, and so the Altstadt had become a replica of itself. The one exception was the Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady.

A decision had been made to leave the Frauenkirche as it was as an anti-war monument. It was powerful because amidst the beauty of the restored Dresden Altstadt, the pile of rubble guaranteed that no one could forget what had happened there. The decision to rebuild the church came after the reunification of Germany and it was to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the city of Dresden in 2006.

I watched the Frauenkirche being rebuilt. On one of my earlier visits, scaffolding had been put up next to the pile of rubble to serve as giant shelves for the sorting and cataloguing of pieces of the church. The intent was to use as much of the original stone as could be used for the reconstruction. A visitors’ centre was created where I saw a model of the church and read about the engineering and progress of the construction. Even after moving to Prague, I continued to visit Dresden fairly regularly, often taking visitors there, and I watched as the church once again became a landmark. When I wasn’t going to Dresden I watched the progress online. I saw the completed exterior of the Frauenkirche for the first time in August of 2004.

The rebuilt Frauenkirche was consecrated today.

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